Albany

DAs Want Increased Prosecutor Training In State Budget

The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York on Thursday in a budget request called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to approve an increase in funding for prosecutorial training.

At the same time, the group wants to continue funding for videotapped interrogations and body cameras.

“Holding those accountable who commit crimes and exonerating the innocent is at the heart of what we do,” said David Soares, the Albany County district attorney and president of the association.

“I ask the Governor to continue to provide money for videotaped interrogations and body worn cameras. Both of these items require increased training, additional staff and significant storage costs. There is no doubt that this technology bolsters the integrity of investigations and helps maintain the public trust in the criminal justice system.”

The DA’s association earlier this month filed a lawsuit challenging a law that creates a commission on prosecutor misconduct, alleging the measure violates separation of powers clauses in the state constitution. Cuomo’s office has said the law will withstand legal challenges.

Builders And Contractors Group Issues Endorsements

The Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors on Thursday endorsed a slate of Republican incumbents and challengers running for the House of Representatives and state Assembly.

The group endorsed Republican Reps. Dan Donovan, John Faso, Peter King, Tom Reed, Claudia Tenney and Lee Zeldin.

For the state Assembly, the group backed Marjorie Byrnes, Michael LiPetri and Joe Pinion.

“We need people in office that believe in a brighter future for New York State. The candidates that we’ve endorsed today will fight for tax relief, sensible regulatory reforms and a better business climate in New York.” said Brian Sampson, President of ABC, Empire State. “We are proud to endorse these candidates and encourage voters to support them with us on Election Day.”

Spectrum News/Siena College Poll Finds Faso And Delgado In Dead Heat

Republican Rep. John Faso is locked in a statistical tie with his Democratic opponent Antonio Delgado in the 19th congressional district in the Hudson Valley, an exclusive Spectrum News/Siena College poll released Monday found.

The poll found Faso drawing 44 percent, with 43 percent surveyed backing Delgado. Actress Diane Neal, running an independent bid, received five percent. Green Party candidate Steven Greenfield receive one percent. Seven percent of voters are undecided.

The 19th congressional district, which runs from the Capital Region to the northern outskirts of the New York City metropolitan area, is one of the most hotly contested races in the state if not the country that could decide control of the House of Representatives.

The poll found a significant gender gap between Faso and Delgado. Women voters backed Delgado by a 17-point margin. Men support Faso by 19 percentage points.

Forty-eight percent of voters polled back Republicans maintaining control of the House, with 45 percent supporting it flip to a Democratic majority.

Underscoring the national interest in the race, Delgado’s campaign on Saturday announced former Vice President Joe Biden would travel to the district in the coming days. Earlier House Speaker Paul Ryan stumped with Faso.

Faso, seeking a second term, has a 40 percent favorable rating, with 46 percent holding an unfavorable opinion of him. Voters are split on Delgado, an attorney who was born in Schenectady and relocated from New Jersey, with 42 percent holding a favorable view of him and 41 percent an unfavorable opinion.

Voters are also split on President Donald Trump. Forty-nine percent disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, while 46 percent approve.

The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 12 to Oct. 16. It has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points.

NYCD191018 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Pallotta Op/Ed: Educators Are Heroes And Forces Of Good

The following is an op/ed by Andy Pallotta, the president of the New York State United Teachers.

In an interview Monday on The Capitol Pressroom, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said NYSUT is a “force of evil.”

Really, Senator Flanagan?  Evil?

Sen. Flanagan may not value our members and their work, but I do. In fact, I couldn’t be more proud to represent some of the noblest, most selfless public servants in New York State.

People like Julie Cobb, a lunch monitor in Carthage, who used the Heimlich maneuver to save a sixth-grade student who was choking and turning blue.  Is Julie one of the “forces of evil” that Sen. Flanagan rails against?

Or maybe he meant Jamie Metivier, a reading teacher in South Glens Falls. Jamie created the Kindness Closet in her elementary school. It’s a place where struggling families can go for food to fill up their pantry and donated household items — like bedding, diapers and small appliances – when tough times get to be too much. 

How about Stephanie Castro and her amazing colleagues? Last year, Stephanie, a speech language pathologist, and special education teachers at P.S. 58 in Staten Island, succeeded in helping a sweet little girl named Celeste, who is just six, to speak aloud for the first time — a tear-inducing moment captured on video.  “We witnessed a miracle,” Stephanie said later. “Celeste was beaming.”

Are they “forces of evil?”

I understand that election season is upon us, and desperate politicians sometimes act out. But Sen. Flanagan should know better than to insult more than 600,000 kindergarten teachers, bus drivers, social workers and college professors who, every day, do the most important job on earth: They educate the next generation.

Maybe he thinks he can drive a wedge between educators and their union. Let there be no doubt: Educators are the union, and there is not one iota of space in between us.
   
NYSUT members are forces of good.  They are heroes who should be exalted by our elected leaders.  They should be lifted up and publicly praised for the noble work they do in our classrooms, hospitals and public higher education institutions, working on behalf of our state’s most precious resource: New York’s children.

Sadly, Sen. Flanagan has made his choice.  He chose to lash out at educators because we have the audacity to hold him accountable for his own actions.

In the waning hours of the last legislative session, Flanagan betrayed parents, educators and students.  He turned his back on them, as well as the 55 out of 63 senators who sponsored S.8301 – a bi-partisan bill to fix the state’s broken teacher evaluation system.  Flanagan tried to cash in with a last-minute bill aimed at currying favor with the big-ticket donors who lavish money on the charter industry and the GOP conference.

In refusing to bring S.8301 to the floor, Sen. Flanagan made clear where his allegiances lie, and they are clearly not with parents and the state’s public education community.

Sen. Flanagan will only have himself to blame if voters hold him accountable for not standing up for our schools. 

Indeed, more than 600,000 “forces of good” are now even more energized, angry and ready to vote on November 6.

Federal, State Regs Pushed Following Limo Crash

From the Morning Memo:

State and federal lawmakers on Wednesday called for new safety regulations following a stretch limousine crash this month that killed 20 people in Schoharie, including the 18 people in the converted Ford sport utility vehicle.

In Washington, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, urged the Highway Traffic Safety Administration to implement new safety regulations as a result of the crash as the National Transportation Safety Board continues its investigation into the causes of the crash.

“The heartbreaking stretch limousine accident in Schoharie painfully reminded the federal authorities who create safety standards through rule-making and enforcement that – in terms of safety for passengers, drivers, and pedestrians – stretch limousines are woefully under-regulated; they fall into a gap between cars and buses, both of which have well-developed safety rules,” said Schumer, the Senate minority leader.

“With the NTSB now investigating safety requirements for stretch limousines, today, I’m calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to stand ready to implement recommendations from the NTSB that will enhance safety. The loss of life experienced in the Schoharie crash is overwhelming and must not be repeated; I’ll work alongside Senators Gillibrand and Blumenthal, NTSB, and NHTSA to do all we can to ensure that it isn’t.”

The lawmakers are pushing for a study assessing what improvements can be made for passenger protections, an evaluation of how stretch limousines are constructed and what safety issues arise as a result, and develop specific requirements to inspect structural safety once a stretch limo has been converted.

There is also a call to review whether limousines should be classified as commercial vehicles, which would require drivers to carry a commercial driver’s license and have more extensive training.

“The limousine crash in Schoharie County made it painfully clear that there are tragic consequences when we don’t have adequate safety regulations. This was our nation’s worst transportation disaster in nearly a decade, and now the federal government has an urgent responsibility to make sure nothing like this ever happens again,” Gillibrand said.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must respond to this crisis, immediately begin working to implement new safety rules for stretch limousines, and follow the recommendations from the NTSB investigation as soon as they are finished. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the twenty New Yorkers who lost their lives in this terrible accident, and I will do everything in my power to help keep our roads safer in the future.”

On the state level, Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat aligned with Republicans, proposed legislation that includes a retirement age for stretch limos, new training requirements for drivers as well as inspection and insurance regulations that would make it harder for a vehicle to get back on the road should it fail to pass.

The limo involved in the crash, officials have said, failed inspection a month earlier.

“The Stretch Limousine Safety Act will ensure that limos are regulated in line with other for hire vehicles in a five pronged approach that also addresses their unique modifications,” Felder said.

District Attorneys Sue To Block Conduct Commission

The organization that represents local prosecutors on Wednesday filed a legal challenge to a law that would create a commission overseeing their conduct.

The lawsuit, announced by the District Attorney’s Association of the State of New York, challenges the legality of the commission based on separation of powers concerns.

“This legislation has numerous constitutional impediments and would violate the separation of powers. DAASNY is committed to upholding our Constitution and therefore we have no choice but to file this lawsuit,” said Albany County District Attorney David Soares, the association’s president.

“Prosecutors take an oath to defend the Constitution and every day in courtrooms all over the state we do just that. It is because of that oath that we are pursuing this litigation.”

The prosecutorial conduct commission was approved as something of a last-minute surprise at the end of the legislative session in June, uniting Democrats in the state Assembly who have been supportive of criminal justice reforms as well as Republicans who have been skeptical of the power of locally elected prosecutors.. The commission is partially modeled on a panel that oversees the conduct of the state’s judiciary.

Unlike that panel, the prosecutorial conduct commission cannot remove district attorneys; a power reserved for the governor in the state’s constitution.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the legislation in the summer, but with some caveats. In a separate signing statement, Cuomo outlined multiple concerns with the bill, including a majority of the commission being composed by the Legislature, the requirement that active judges serve on thus expanding the role of the Court of Appeals and the potential for the release of sensitive investigatory information to the public.

Changes to the final measure are likely based on an agreement with the Assembly, Senate and the governor’s office, Cuomo said at the time.

Updated: Cuomo spokesman Tyrone Stevens responded.

“We believe in a fair and equal justice system that places no one above the law and ensures officers of the court are held accountable to upholding this fundamental standard. While we haven’t been served with any lawsuit, we are confident this bipartisan and groundbreaking agreement will withstand legal challenge.”

Dkt 02 – Complaint by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Spectrum News/NY1 To Host Attorney General Debate

Spectrum News and NY1 will host a debate between attorney general candidates Letitia James and Keith Wofford on Oct. 30.

The debate, to be moderated by Capital Tonight’s Liz Benjamin and Inside City Hall’s Errol Louis, airs at 7 p.m.

James, the New York City public advocate, was the winner of a four-way Democratic primary last month. Wofford, an attorney at the law firm Ropes & Gray, was unopposed for the GOP nomination.

The attorney general’s office is an open seat this year following the resignation in May of Democratic incumbent Eric Schneiderman amid allegations of domestic violence and sexual misconduct.

Barbara Underwood, appointed by the Legislature to serve out the remainder of Schneiderman’s second term, declined to run.

Molinaro’s Per Diem Spending Under Scrutiny

From the Morning Memo:

As a member of the state Assembly, Republican Marc Molinaro in one year claimed $17,617 in expenses while traveling to Albany and back.

The per diem spending — used by lawmakers for meals and travel costs– would today place Molinaro second among the 213 members of the state Legislature.

His successor in the Assembly, Democratic Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, does not claim per diems.

Likewise, lawmakers from the Hudson Valley like Molinaro who travel even further from the mid-Hudson Valley to get to the state Capitol don’t take travel per diems, including Republicans Sue Serino in the state Senate and Kieran Labor in the Assembly. The late Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados also did not accept per diems.

Molinaro’s only contemporary in the Assembly was Skartados, who died earlier this year.

Molinaro’s per diem spending jumped in 2009-10. He spent only $2,000 or so during his first year in office, 2007. His increased per diem spending was partially a reflection of Molinaro’s rapid rise in the Assembly GOP ranks. At the time he departed the chamber to become the Duchess County executive, he had become assistant minority leader, a member of the Way and Means Committee and sat on several task forces, posts that required him to travel around the state.

Molinaro this year is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a third term.

“Sadly, this is just another attempt by Andrew Cuomo to cover up his disastrous record of making New York the highest taxed and most corrupt state in America,” said Molinaro spokeswoman Katy Delgado.

“But while we’re on the subject, maybe Andrew Cuomo should come clean about how much money taxpayer’s have spent for his travel on Air Cuomo and how much money has been stolen by his corrupt administration’s campaigning out of state offices. How quickly we forget, soon to be inmate, Joe Percoco’s 837 phone calls out of a government office while he was employed by the campaign.”

But one Democratic insider said Molinaro’s to call for fiscal discipline doesn’t square when he also took in per diems.

“Molinaro is all talk when it comes to protecting taxpayer dollars but in reality he’s raiding the collection bin. Just like giving tax breaks to county contractors that employ his family, Molinaro would rather line his pockets with New Yorkers hard-earned dollars than rein in government spending.”

Errigo Latest Lawmaker To Face Corruption Charges

Republican Assemblyman Joe Errigo was accused Wednesday by federal prosecutors of accepting thousands of dollars in cash bribes in exchange for introducing a bill at the behest of a lobbyist and an unnamed member of the state Assembly.

Errigo was charged with bribery and wire fraud, making him the latest state lawmaker to face corruption charges in the scandal-plagued New York state government.

Prosecutors outlined an alleged scheme in which an unnamed lawmaker — identified as “member A” in the criminal complaint — and a lobbyist worked to introduce legislation that transferred authority over a Rochester development project to the state Department of Transportation.

It was the lobbyist, also not named in the complaint, who suggested Errigo be used to introduce the legislation to make the bill “untraceable” to the original lawmaker.

The cash bribes, handed over in envelopes during different steps of the bill introduction process. The money used to “grease the skids” which included one payment for the legislation receiving a bill number. All told, some $10,500 in cash bribes changed hands.

Errigo was first elected in 2000 and served until 2010. He was re-elected in 2016 to fill the vacancy created when Assemblyman Bill Nojay died by suicide as he was about to face criminal fraud charges. During the campaign, Errigo made headlines when he suggest in a radio interview that President Obama was telling black to “kill the whites.”

Errigo lost his Republican primary earlier last month to Marjorie Byrnes.

“The allegations against Assemblyman Joe Errigo announced today are disturbing for everyone in state government and for the people of the 133rd Assembly District,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb. “We have just learned about the charges, and more facts will be presented as the legal process runs its course. If a crime has been committed, the guilty parties should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Any time these kinds of accusations are brought against a public official, it severely damages the public trust.”

Yankees Draw Labor Ire After Crossing Picket Line

From the Morning Memo:

The New York AFL-CIO in a statement Thursday evening blasted the ownership of the New York Yankees for having players stay at a hotel in Boston that’s being picketed by workers on strike.

The Yankees are in Boston to start the American League Division Series against their rival Boston Red Sox.

Several players arrived at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston on Thursday, where workers are on strike, part of a multi-city labor action.

“As a lifelong Yankee fan and a proud New Yorker, I am disgusted the management of a team representing the strongest union town in America would choose a hotel where workers are on strike,” said AFL-CIO President Mario Cliento.

“Make no mistake, despite the Yankee organization’s callous decision to cross a picket line, New York’s labor movement stands in solidarity with the strikers and supports all working men and women across the country fighting for fairness and dignity at their jobs.”

Teams typically book hotels for their players, though Major League Baseball provides a planning manual for teams in advance. The details of travel for players is handled by the collective bargaining agreement for players.

The Major League Baseball Players Association, the union that represents players in the major leagues, in a statement said it supports the striking workers.

“From what we understand, these workers have been trying to negotiate a fair contract for more than six months,” the union said. “They deserve to be heard and deserve our support.”